April 14, 2022 by Matt Zentz
Marketing can get very expensive quickly, especially for all-in-one solutions. If you want CRM, email marketing, automation, social media management, customer support and event data all in one solution it’s going to cost you a lot. Set up and implementation alone will be expensive and the annual fees could swallow up your marketing budget.
If you don’t want to pay up, the other choice is to build it all piecemeal, one specialized platform at a time. This can be a lot cheaper overall but it also creates a big data problem because the data on each platform is isolated from the others. One platform may have sales data, one with email marketing data, one with support data, and so on. With all of these separate solutions we have to figure out how to sync the important data.
If I want to send an email campaign to all customers who bought product X and have contacted support within the last 3 months, I have to pull the data from multiple systems, merge it together, and then import it into my email marketing system. From a marketing standpoint, it would be much more effective if I could have that data all in one place and create a segment using those attributes.
But with our frugal approach, we spend way too much time trying to sync data from one system to another using plugins, extensions, Zaps, custom webhooks, etc. This can create real disparities in data between the systems because the sync processes are not perfect and errors do occur.
There is also the added cost of our own time trying to get the systems to talk to each other and resolving any issues that surface. That cost depends on the technical know-how of the individuals doing the work. We’re a pretty technical bunch in my office so our costs aren’t too bad (until we decide to over engineer everything).
Right now our primary marketing tools are ActiveCampaign for email marketing and automation, Hubspot for CRM, Reply.io for outreach, Google Tag Manager & Analytics, Marketpath CMS (of course) for content management, transactional email and tracking with Sendgrid, and a home grown project management and customer support application.
One of the most important tasks is trying to sync and centralize all of this data. Unless there’s an easy way to glimpse at customer and prospect data, you will inevitably stumble your way through the dark from one application to another. And your ability for effective decision-making will suffer.
We decided that ActiveCampaign would be our central data repository. It’s not perfect (no platform is) but we can send account and contact details, as well as add tags and log events. This gives us a lot of data and history of user activity. We send event data to ActiveCampaign from Marketpath CMS, Hubspot, Reply.io, etc
When a user registers with Marketpath CMS, we use the ActiveCampaign API to automatically create a contact and subscribe them to our primary user email list. When they change their user type (editor, marketer, developer, etc) we update that in ActiveCampaign. When they login, we update a date field called Last Login. When they create a new site, we log an event called “cms-site-create”.
For our Hubspot CRM and Reply.io accounts, we connect Zapier to them, set up triggers, and then send that data to ActiveCampaign. The same happens with marketpath.com. When a form on our website is submitted it triggers a Zap, creates or updates the contact in ActiveCampaign, logs the conversion event, and then adds the user to a list (if desired).
And since ActiveCampaign provides us with automation, we can set up routines that can act on this new data. For example, when a user creates their first new site and we log that ActiveCampaign event, we start a short email drip campaign.
This is just a part of our martech stack. Using all these different platforms can be confusing and annoying, so when we’re able to eliminate one, it’s truly a great day.
ActiveCampaign has CRM capability that is underutilized and they are working diligently to expand and improve it. We’ve been working with them to provide input and feedback on feature changes and additions. They are trying to help us drop Hubspot and Reply.io (for the record, both are great solutions) and it would be nice if I could do that. I think we’re getting close.
A lot of these independent platforms get absorbed into larger all-in-one platforms like Salesforce or Hubspot. Then, once fully integrated, they can become expensive because they begin focusing on enterprise level customers who have deep pockets.
Moving toward all-in-one platforms is what marketers are demanding and I believe a lot of platforms will continue in that direction. I hope ActiveCampaign continues to grow their features while at the same time maintaining reasonable price structures for us little guys.
Navigating the pricing, contracts, setup, training, etc for enterprise-focused products is a giant pain in the @$$. Don’t even get me started on Adobe’s antiquated licensing model. I lost more hair on my head dealing with that (and there’s not a lot left up there)!
My martech stack is really trying to kill me - slowly and piece by piece. But until I find the perfect, reasonably priced all-in-one solution, I’ll just keep chipping away at my data-sync honey-do-list and keep stringing all these apps together.
Matt Zentz launched Marketpath from a small Broad Ripple bungalow in February 2001 with a focus on custom web application development. He built the first, basic version of a hosted CMS called Webtools and shortly afterward expanded his team and created the first version of Marketpath CMS.
Matt has worked for a national consulting firm, taught computer programming to high school juniors and seniors , and led the information technology arm of the auxiliary business units at Indiana University.
Matt graduated from Indiana University in 1999 with a B.S. in Computer Science and has built custom web applications since 1995. Matt is husband to an amazing & supportive wife, has three beautiful children, and supreme master to Archimedes (Archie) the dog. He coaches various kid sports, enjoys building furniture, and plays guitar and piano. Matt is very active within his church community and several area not-for-profits.